Our Language about Leadership Performance Doesn’t Encourage Collaboration
Reading time: 4 minutes
Do you Ever Stop Yourself from Discussing Day-to-Day Leadership with Colleagues?
From time to time, leaders inevitably find themselves wondering how to tackle a situation. But most leaders hesitate to talk with their peers about it. Even if a close colleague would be in a unique position to understand what the leader is up against.
Discussing Leadership Challenges would be the Logical Thing to Do
Most people will agree that to discuss with a peer, a boss or another close colleague how to best handle a leadership challenge is a responsible, collaborative way to ensure that different options have been weighed before action is taken. It’s logical and it’s what we do in all other areas of working life. Unfortunately, very few leaders find it safe to do so. Instead they go to great lengths to keep their concerns to themselves.
The Language We Normally Use Doesn’t Encourage Open Dialogue About Leading People
When talking about leadership, we traditionally focus on competencies and personality traits. Recruiters do so, when they test leaders for their personality traits and competencies. Leadership developers reinforce this by providing one program after the other to let leaders understand their personal strengths/weaknesses or to increase their level of self-awareness. The same is true for employee satisfaction surveys and performance appraisals. Questions and reports refer to competencies and personal abilities.
Nobody Wants to Engage in a Discussion That Makes Them or a Colleague Lose Face
Unfortunately, when the only language to talk about leadership points to competency and/or personality, we respectfully avoid the topic. Why? Because human beings everywhere generally avoid topics that would make another person lose face.
There Is a Solution
The solution is to introduce a different standard for good leadership: a standard that allows leaders to collaborate and engage in pragmatic peer discussions about the challenges they need to tackle.
Ideally such a standard should:
- Separate the day-to-day dialogue from whether the leader’s competencies are sufficient
- Give a clear and pragmatic overview of those leadership deliverables
- Offer a simple method that leaders may apply to tackle the majority of day-to-day people challenges
- Demonstrate to leaders that leadership must take place whenever the opportunity presents itself
- Show the leaders how to be like radars: always scanning for deviations from what’s expected
- Assist leaders in recognising a leadership opportunity
- Show leaders why it is important to catch the leadership opportunities
- Help leaders express their observations and intentions with clarity to employees
- Be applicable across sectors, industries and cultural divides
If You Want to Win the Game, You Must Focus on Deliverables
In a sports game, the focus is always upon the deliverables. Does the keeper prevent the other team from scoring? Is this player filling out his role today? When the coach and assistant talk during the game, they talk about game tactics and what tactical handles to turn next. Of course, a good coach will also take an interest in the personalities and mental state of the players. But when the game is on, focus is first and foremost on deliverables. And nobody needs to worry about face-losing.
To Excel in Leadership, You Also Need to Focus on Deliverables
With leadership deliverables you can create a parallel situation. You can have a relaxed and pragmatic discussion about day-to-day leadership whenever the need arises, because you can focus on the handles available to any leader in a given situation. Personality, competencies and self-awareness is something you look into only if the leader subsequently fails in his/her ability to carry out specific measures.
Direct Leadership® Facilitates Pragmatic, Face-Preserving Conversations about Day-to-Day Leadership
The model defines day-to-day leadership as a generic, universal set of deliverables. Additionally, the leadership deliverables are entirely focused on the vital interaction that allows a leader to contribute positively to employee performance.
In this way, the discussion about leadership becomes a question of what approaches to take to support specific employee behaviors. And the discussion about leadership competency and personality traits, can be saved for more relevant occasions.
Remove the Taboo
The focus on leadership deliverables removes the risk of face-loss and the sense that discussing someone’s leadership is to criticize their personality. That takes the taboo and sense of walking on egg-shells out of discussions about someone's day-to-day leadership. In fact, it makes that discussion what it should be: a workplace matter that we handle in a responsible, collaborative way. All you have to do is introduce the language of leadership deliverables.
Learn the Direct Leadership® method and get a language for the discussion about leadership.